Calendula, sometimes called marigolds, is a type of perennial flower that is characterized by a big, beautiful sunshine-orange blossom that is native to the Mediterranean area.
It is a trusted herb that has been used for centuries by many cultures and traditions, including by cultures in its native Mediterranean region, as well as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine.
For skin care purposes, what you're applying to your skin is actually calendula oil. The oil is extracted from the petals, stems, and seeds (much like rose is typically rose oil).
"Calendula oil is an extract obtained from the marigold plant," board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., says. "It is commonly used in skin care products for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties."
From there it can be formulated into creams, oil blends, and serums. Along with skin care, it can be brewed into tea or used as an herb in foods.
1. It's anti-Inflammatory.
Inflammation wreaks havoc on the skin: It breaks down collagen, causes irritation, and can trigger skin conditions. Inflammation comes from a variety of factors, as well, from stress, diet, and external aggressors like pollution and UV exposure.
2. It contains antioxidants.
Antioxidants are a beloved skin care ingredient for good reason, as they neutralize free radicals and help our bodies avoid oxidative stress—both of which lead to premature aging, collagen and elastin breakdown, and a whole host of other issues. Calendula contains carotenoids and flavonoids. And because of these antioxidants, the plant has been shown to help wounds heal faster, plump skin through hydration and circulation
3. It's antimicrobial.
As you may know, your body is covered with trillions of microbes—including bacteria and fungi—collectively called the microbiome. When balanced, these all play an important part in keeping skin healthy. It’s when a certain strain (or strains) become overgrown that issues arise: "Its antimicrobial benefits make it useful in addressing issues like dandruff, diaper rash, and even acne," says Zeichner. Dandruff, rashes, and acne are all triggered by the overgrowth of certain fungi and bacteria, which calendula can help manage.
4. It can be hydrating.
There's a reason the plant is often formulated into hydrating creams: It offers plenty of hydration in and of itself. This is due to the fatty acids in the oil—like linoleic acid—that provides nutrients to help support your skin barrier function. When your skin barrier function is healthy, it's better able to keep in water and stays hydrated.